Reynolds Rap

Staggered Madness

2/11/2011 9:28 AM

The wraparound pass still lives, but CBS’s traditional whip-around coverage of “March Madness” has gone the way of the set shot.

CBS and Turner Sports, new teammates on a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, have unveiled the windowing for CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV during their rookie year coverage of the expanded 68-team field.

Ironically, the new format, affording each game its own national window for the first time in the tournament’s 73-year history — supplanting CBS taking viewers to the various venues over the course of an afternoon or evening session during the early stages — will allow multichannel subscribers to direct their own Madness during rounds two and three and the Sweet Sixteen. As a consequence of this complete coverage, the top DBS provider, whose current tagline is “Don’t Just Watch TV. DirecTV,” no longer will offer its pay-per-view “Mega March Madness” live-game package. Since 1999, subscribers had been able to watch up to 37 Big Dance contests and interactive features through the package.

Tipping off with the “First Four,” a pair of doubleheaders on March 15 and March 16, 92-million-home TruTV
is in the mix for 13 contests, one more than TNT, which will present second- and third-round match-ups. For its part, TBS will air a total of 16 contests, including games in the second round, third round and Sweet 16. CBS will air 26 games over the second, third, Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds, as well as the Final Four semifinals and national championship contest in Houston.  CBS’s Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg will team with Steve Kerr of Turner Sports to call the action from Reliant Stadium.

(The contract keeps the regional finals and Final Four on CBS through 2015. Starting in 2016, the regional finals will be split by CBS and Turner, and the Final Four and the title game will alternate yearly between CBS and TBS.)

What’s significant from a viewer perspective is the more staggered tip-off times for the 2011 event. That will give fans a chance to check out the game they want to see in its entirety, in lieu of CBS cutting in and out of the action from different arenas. Although that may diminish some of the audience excitement/trepidation factors of a being dropped into a telecast where a top bracket pick might flame out early, or one of your sleepers is about to pull the big upset, the new format will also showcase more of the intense down-the-stretch, buzzer-beating action that is the calling card of March Madness.

Another major change will occur on the first Sunday night of the tournament. In the past, CBS had concluded Madness matters at that point by turning the network over to 60 Minutes after its late window of games. On March 20, Black Rock will present a third game starting at 5 p.m. and then go to the venerable news magazine, but TNT (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.), TBS (7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) and TruTV (7:30 p.m.) will continue with primetime tournament coverage on TV’s most-watched night.

By scattering the action across the four channels, individual game ratings may take a hit vying with one another for viewer attention, but the collective audience, so the TV teammates hope, will rise.

In any event, we’ll all be taking a new view of March Madness into the Sweet Sixteen next month.

Check out the tournament TV schedule — which could see the games switching on TNT, TBS and TruTV — below. The bracket matchups will be announced on Selection Sunday March 13.

Tuesday, March 15
6:30 p.m.: First Round game at Dayton, truTV
9:00 p.m.: First Round game at Dayton, truTV

Wednesday, March 16
6:30 p.m.: First Round game at Dayton, truTV
9:00 p.m.: First Round game at Dayton, truTV
Thursday, March 17
12:00 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
12:30 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
1:30 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
2:00 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
2:30 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
3:00 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
4:00 p.m.: Second round game,TBS
4:30 p.m.: Second round game,TNT
6:45 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
7:00 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
7:15 p.m.: Second round game,TNT
7:15 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
9:15 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
9:30 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
9:45 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
9:55 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV

Friday, March 18
12:00 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
12:30 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
1:30 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
2:00 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
2:30 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
3:00 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
4:00 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
4:30 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
6:45 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
7:00 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
7:15 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
7:15 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV
9:15 p.m.: Second round game, TBS
9:30 p.m.: Second round game, CBS
9:45 p.m.: Second round game, TNT
9:55 p.m.: Second round game, TruTV

Saturday, March 19
12:00 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
2:30 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
5:00 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
6:00 p.m.: Third round game, TNT
7:00 p.m.: Third round game, TBS
7:30 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
8:30 p.m.: Third round game, TNT
9:30 p.m.: Third round game, TBS

Sunday, March 20
12:00 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
2:30 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
5:00 p.m.: Third round game, CBS
6:00 p.m.: Third round game, TNT
7:00 p.m.: Third round game, TBS
7:30 p.m.: Third round game, TruTV
8:30 p.m.: Third round game, TNT
9:30 p.m.: Third round game,TBS

Thursday, March 24
7:00 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at New Orleans, CBS
7:15 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at Anaheim, TBS
9:30 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at New Orleans, CBS
9:55 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at Anaheim, TBS

Friday, March 25
7:00 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at Newark, CBS
7:15 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at San Antonio, TBS
9:30 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at Newark, CBS
9:55 p.m.: Regional semifinal game at San Antonio, TBS

Saturday, March 26
4:20 p.m.: Regional final game at New Orleans or Anaheim, CBS
6:55 p.m.: Regional final game at New Orleans or Anaheim, CBS

Sunday, March 27
2:10 p.m.: Regional final game at Newark or San Antonio, CBS
4:55 p.m.: Regional final game at Newark or San Antonio, CBS

Saturday, April 2
6:00 p.m.: National semifinal at Houston, CBS
8:30 p.m.: National semifinal at Houston, CBS

Monday, April 4
9:00 p.m.: National championship game at Houston, CBS

November

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